As reported by Italian press agency Agenzia Giornalistica Italia (AGI), the Italian government is planning a 19 percent tax rebate for book buyers, up to a maximum annual limit of EUR 2000 ($2746). As part of the package of measures entitled “Destination Italy,” the plan, just approved by the Council of Ministers and announced by Premier Enrico Letta last Friday, is designed “to promote greater dissemination of reading physical books,” and applies to all books with a “user ISBN.”
The Destination Italy package is designed to encourage inward investment and foreign business activity in Italy. “Destinazione Italia is the expression of a coherent policy to attract foreign investment and improve the competitiveness of Italian firms,” says the official government site. The exact reason for positioning a book credit as a plank of an investment promotion platform is not directly clear, but there are plenty of pointers to the government’s intentions. “World demand for culture is growing exponentially,” says the text of the plan, which also talks of using culture as a lever in a “diplomacy of attraction.” Other pro-cultural policies such as tax credits for music and film productions also form part of the package.
Letta also spoke of the importance of this aspect of the plan in the dissemination of books and culture. Out of the EUR 2000 credit, EUR 1000 ($1375) is reserved “for school books and college, and EUR 1000 “for all other publications.” Italy already maintains a VAT rate of 4 percent on books versus a basic rate of 22 percent, well below the 7 percent book rate in France and Germany.
Destination Italy has been hailed elsewhere for its simplicity, transparency, and uniformity, in a country where official rules are so often the exact opposite. If this grand reform failed to get through Italy’s mire of interlocked special interests, or fell short of expectations, it wouldn’t be the first time. But it’s intriguing to see books given such a high priority as part of an overall plan for national regeneration.